Mueller Report - Are We in a Pre-Pulitzer Age of Journalism Again?

While Carl Bernstein says the Russiagate story is alive and well because there’s lots of investigations and stories still going on - most of which have zero to do with Russia and the Trump campaign - the real Woodward/Bernstein of the collapsing Russia narrative is, in fact, Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi.

He's been releasing, Dickens-like, his book Hate Inc. in serialized fashion at his blog. His recently released chapter is a fascinating and thoroughly depressing look at the role of media in this scandal. It's hard to read it and not come away worried about the future of the press.

But then again, the partisan bias that erupted as a result of President Trump's being the shock winner back in 2016, has shaken more than a few institutions, seemingly to their core. And the press has been complicit in the crazed conspiracy narratives driven by those shocked and angry that Trump had the gall to win the election.

As well, a central theme in Taibbi's book - that is, those parts of his book that he has released so far - is the relationship between much of the press and America's (and the UK and Australia's quite frankly) intelligence community.

Here's the thing, Ben Rhodes didn't invent the echo chamber. He merely put it to use by leveraging the incompetence/ignorance/pliability of members of a media that has re-invented itself and downsized and cut and invested in tech to try and not go out of business. Leaving younger journalists with little experience, or knowledge to analyze and report and who instead carry water for government officials. But that echo chamber that Rhodes pointed towards the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in order to boost public support and lay the groundwork for President Obama's gamble, has arguably been up and running for decades if not generations.

You see, Taibbi points out that Watergate is not the analogy we should use with Russiagate. It's not even the Whitewater probes where the GOP seems to have used opposition research to justify Ken Starr's probes of the Clintons. It's Weapons-of-Mass-Destruction, or WMD as you might recall, and their use in launching the subsequent Iraq War which is the real analogy. A war, along with the war in Afghanistan, which have been a financial and human disaster, and likely a major strategic error over the longer term, as even George W. has had to admit.

It's sobering to get down into the weeds of Russiagate, even if scandal fatigue has set in even among those angered by Mueller's broad scope and reported lack of evidence of any collusion. But Taibbi methodically recounts the manipulations and outright lies that surface, one after the other, to be retracted quietly at some future point (sometimes only a day or two later) after the absurdity of the claims and the lack of evidence meant they had no choice but to drop the stories. For example:

• In the early days of the scandal CNN reported: that Trump officials had been in constant contact with Russians known to U.S. intelligence, as Taibbi puts it, "... the former director of the CIA, who'd helped kick-start the investigation that led to Mueller's probe, said the President was guilty of "high crimes and misdemeanors," committing acts "nothing short of treasonous." While there were what seems to have been normal contacts between the Trump transition team and Russian diplomats, the charges that Brennan and CNN laid out remain unsubstantiated. And, but of course, there has been no walk-back by them, as Taibbi points out.

• Comey telling Trump in January 2017, "I said it was important that we not give them the excuse to write that the FBI has the material or [redacted] and that we were keeping it very close-hold [sic]." And then using the fact he told the President-Elect he wouldn't give the press a hook, as a hook to let the press report on the dossier and the fable of the golden showers.

• Which brings us to a fascinating possible source for that uncorroborated and almost certainly false story of prostitutes peeing on a mattress in Moscow that the Obamas had apparently slept in. As Taibbi writes, "Recapping: the reporter who introduced Steele to the world (his September 23, 2016 story was the first to reference him as a source), who wrote a book that even he concedes was seen as 'validating' the pee tape story, suddenly backtracks and says the whole thing may have been based on a Las Vegas strip act, but it doesn't matter because Stormy Daniels, etc."

• What Taibbi is referring to is an interview on John Ziegler's Free Speech Broadcasting show where the reporter, Michael Isikoff, admits the story could have come from a Vegas Adult-Audience act:

Isikoff: Yeah. I think we had some evidence in there of an event that may have inspired the pee tape and that was the visit that Trump made with a number of characters who later showed up in Moscow, specifically Emin Agalarov and Rob Goldstone to this raunchy Las Vegas nightclub where one of the regular acts was a skit called "Hot For Teacher" in which dancers posing as college Co-Ed's urinated - or simulated urinating on their professor. Which struck me as an odd coincidence at best. I think, you know, it is not implausible that event may have inspired...

Ziegler: An urban legend?

Isikoff: ...allegations that appeared in the Steele dossier.

The tone of Isikoff in this interview is humorous apparently, a sort of wink and guffaw at the ludicrousness of it all. And not an ounce of discomfort or, God forbid, shame is evident on the part of a key player in all of this, Isikoff himself. It's not just him, of course. It's how the media sees itself and sees Trump, an admittedly divisive figure but the legitimately-elected President of America.

Then there's Maria Butina.

Taibbi adds, "With Russiagate the national press abandoned any pretense that there's a difference between indictment and conviction. The most disturbing story involved Maria Butina. Here authorities and the press shared responsibility. Thanks to an indictment that initially said the Russian traded sex for favors, the Times and other outlets flooded the news cycle with breathless stories about a redheaded slut-temptress come to undermine democracy, a 'real-life Red Sparrow,' as ABC put it."

But a judge threw out the sex charge after "five minutes" when it turned out to be based on a single joke text to a friend who had taken Butina's car for inspection.

It's pretty hard to undo public perception you're a prostitute once it's been in a headline, and, worse, the headlines are still out there. You can still find stories like "Maria Butina, Suspected Secret Agent, Used Sex in Covert Plan" online in the New York Times.

Have you heard much about the text message that turned a lobbyist into a spy? Probably not, huh? As Taibbi points out, the around 50 major mistakes or lies he has noted down all run in one direction, against Trump and with the so-called Resistance.

This isn't journalism, it's political activism.

Taibbi concludes the chapter with this, "We had the sense to eventually look inward a little in the WMD affair, which is the only reason we escaped that episode with any audience left. Is the press even capable of that kind of self-awareness now? WMD damaged our reputation. If we don't turn things around, this story will destroy it."

I'm afraid there's another scenario that Taibbi seemingly discounts, and it's worse. The press returns to an older form of journalism. I don't mean Woodward and Bernstein at their typewriters in the early mid-70's in the Washington Post newsroom. I mean the days of William Randolph Hearst and so-called yellow journalism and the Spanish-American War. A journalism that seeks to influence and provoke rather than to inform.

Like the papers run by Hearst's big competitor, Joseph Pulitzer, who as a penance for his trash news created the Pulitzer Prize and finally was able to convince - posthumously - Columbia University to create a School of Journalism, which was inaugurated in 1913. Columbia had been very hesitant because journalism was a trade not a true profession in respectable society's eyes, and a disreputable one at that, and because Pulitzer's papers, like Hearst's, ran sensationalist, lurid headlines that could and were sometimes weaponized for political ends.

In fact, we've been in what is devolving back to a pre-Pulitzer media world for some time now. We'll see if the ethics and professionalism of journalists ever does return in a meaningful way, or if the press stays as divided as the rest of us, a weapon to be bought, sold, and manipulated by intel agencies and political parties and goodness knows who else?

Posted by Keeley at March 26, 2019 2:42 PM
Comment #440612

Logic is the enemy and truth is a menace for the reich wing.
Your article makes very little sense. It looks like it was edited form some other source, so I’ll do some of that below.

“In the early days of the scandal” is too vague to mean anything.

Obsessing about the pee pee tape ignores what it actually says in the Steele Dossier.

Samuel Beckett, “to chose between the things not worth mentioning and those even less so”

“This is a pretty basic legalistic bait-and-switch.”

” Barr outrageously mischaracterizes the scope of Mueller’s investigation”

“Tr-mp found the one type of collusion he *hadn’t* engaged in—a covert, before-the-fact agreement (Conspiracy) with the IRA or GRU to (respectively) use psy-ops on or hack America—and denied it. Unfortunately, that was a small part of the “coordination” Mueller was looking at.”

“The Tr-mp Tower Moscow-for-sanctions relief quid pro quo Tr-mp was accused of was *never* chargeable as Conspiracy—it would be Bribery or maybe Aiding and Abetting (After the Fact) Russian interference”

“What Barr has done is *adopt wholesale* Tr-mp’s definition of “collusion”: the narrowest possible definition, which involves *only* a single type of crime (Conspiracy) with *only* a single entity (the Russian government) and *only* on a single topic (“election interference”).”

Posted by: ohrealy at March 26, 2019 6:02 PM
Comment #440613

Who makes more sense, Ben Rhodes or Keeley:

Posted by: ohrealy at March 26, 2019 6:09 PM
Comment #440617

Keeley, Good article.
Ed O’hrealy still believes in the Steele Dossier, as do the other haters.
Yes, the main stream media will continue to be “a weapon to be bought, sold, and manipulated by intel agencies and political parties…” which is why they call it the FAKE NEWS MEDIA.

Yes, the WMD (or lack of WMD) used to justify the war in Iraq, was a extremely bad mistake by the U.S.

Posted by: d.a.n at March 26, 2019 9:44 PM
Comment #440644
Keeley wrote: While Carl Bernstein says the Russiagate story is alive and well because there’s lots of investigations and stories still going on - most of which have zero to do with Russia and the Trump campaign …
Carl Bernstein claims to be a journalist.
That’s becoming a dirty word these days, with all of the FAKE NEWS MEDIA.
Keeley wrote: This isn’t journalism, it’s political activism.
It’s worse than political activism in many cases.
There should be investigations into how some Democrats (In all of the discussions about the political weaponization of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the FBI, alleged corruption at the highest echelons of those agencies and serial abuse of the secret FISA process surrounding the 2016 election, one name has been conspicuously absent: President Barack Obama.

High-ranking officials (which Obama oversaw) were part of the hoax (i.e. James Comey, Loretta Lynch, Andrew McCabe, Andrew Weissmann, Sally Yates, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, Bruce Ohr, Brennan, Hillary Clinton, others in the DNC, etc.). These people in the FBI and DOJ and Hillary’s camp (i.e. deep state) were able to start and perpetuate the “Russia Collusion” hoax, serial abuse of the secret FISA process surrounding the 2016 election, weaponization of those departments.
And the vast majority of the Main Stream Media (a.k.a. FAKE NEWS MEDIA) was complicit, and has become so consumed with their Trump-hatred, that their reporting can no longer be trusted.

Posted by: d.a.n at March 27, 2019 8:13 AM
Comment #440650

Matt Taibbi on Insane Clown President:

Trmp is the perfect modern American. He’s a human consumption machine with no attention span, no self-control, no beliefs and no hobbies outside of s-x, spending, eating and talking about himself. Nixon at least played the piano and read classics. He was an intellectual with a pig’s heart. Tr-mp is just the pig part…The distance between the two men represents how far we’ve fallen as a nation in the last 40 or 50 years…During most of the last two years I thought the Trump campaign would just be an isolated episode of mass insanity on which we would someday be able to look back and laugh. It turned out to be something a lot darker and crazier than that. Insane Clown President is the story of how we got here, to the beginning of our next long national nightmare.
Posted by: ohrealy at March 27, 2019 9:46 AM
Comment #440653

Ed O’hrealy is the gift that keeps on giving.

Ed O’hrealy quoted: It turned out to be something a lot darker and crazier than that.
True. Because Ed O’hrealy (and similar ilk) became deranged by their deep hatred, and consumed with the hateful lies from the FAKE NEWS MEDIA, and weaponization of the FBI, DOJ, IRS, EPA, etc.

Posted by: d.a.n at March 27, 2019 11:35 AM
Comment #440657

Matt Taibbi:

“The disaster that followed cost over a hundred-thousand lives just in Iraq and drained north of $2 trillion from the budget. Once we were in and the “most lethal weapons ever devised” were not discovered, it quickly became obvious that large numbers of people at the highest levels of society had either lied, screwed up, or both.”

Posted by: ohrealy at March 27, 2019 4:00 PM
Comment #440658

What it actually says in the Steele Dossier

One which had borne fruit for them was to exploit personal obsessions and sexual perversion in order to obtain suitable ‘kompromat’ [compromising material] on him…TR-MP’s unorthodox behavior in Russia over the years had provided the authorities there with enough embarrassing material on the now R—ublican presidential candidate to be able to blackmail him if they so wished.
Posted by: ohrealy at March 27, 2019 4:12 PM
Comment #440659

Matt Taibbi! Matt Taibbi lived in RussiaRussiaRussia for 6 years! He most certainly is guilty of collusion! How can he not be? Are you kidding me? You’re a racist!

Posted by: Weary Willie at March 27, 2019 4:18 PM
Comment #440661

Ed O’hrealy, IF you believe all that crap, which James Comey called “unverified”, then I have some ocean-front property for sale in Arizona.
As for the 2nd Iraq war, that was a HUGE mistake, based on bad intelligence, and/or lies.
Many parts of the Steele Dossier were proven to be lies, and “leaking” Adam Schiff, Brennan, the FAKE NEWS MEDIA, and similar ilk have been faked-out by an elaborate hoax.
Matt Taibbi calls himself a journalist, but he’s just another nasty, hateful lying member of the FAKE NEWS MEDIA.
Please show us verified proof from the Steele Dossier of a crime by Trump (if you can)?

Crickets chirping … Crickets chirping … Crickets chirping … Crickets chirping …

Posted by: d.a.n at March 27, 2019 4:27 PM
Comment #441012

These webspammers ( ) just now received 1000 times more spam back in their contact forms, blogs, twitter, facebook, chat, and email accounts, and they were also reported via Google Webspam Report site.

Posted by: d.a.n at April 2, 2019 12:49 PM
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